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Ken Casellas | Photo: Hamilton Content Creators

Champion trainers Greg and Skye Bond are poised to land the quinella with brilliant New Zealand-bred five-year-olds Ideal Agent and Double Up in the $50,000 The West Australian Nights of Thunder final at Gloucester Park on Friday night.

The geldings, both by American sire American Ideal, were dashing winners of the two qualifying heats last Friday night, and they look set to fight out the finish of the 1730m sprint this week after drawing the two inside barriers.

The Bond camp is the only stable to have provided a quinella result in the 15-year history of the Nights of Thunder, a feat achieved in 2012 when 13/2 chance Ohokas Bondy (barrier six and driven by Colin Brown) charged home from fifth on the home turn to win by a half-length from fast-finishing stablemate and 9/1 chance Dundee Three (barrier seven and driven by Michael George).

Greg Bond also trained 13/2 chance Quick Draw McCaw when he led from barrier five and won the 2008 Nights of Thunder, and Bond and his wife also prepared Ocean Ridge, the $1.80 favourite who led from barrier three with Ryan Warwick in the sulky and won the feature sprint in January 2020 when he defeated Bob Wheel by four lengths and set a race record of a 1.52.6 rate.

There is a strong possibility that this record will be broken this week — after Ideal Agent rated 1.51.9 in winning his heat by a half-length from the $1.20 favourite Ragazzo Mach, who worked hard for the first 550m before getting to the front and then setting a fast pace.

Ragazzo Mach is a top quality four-year-old, but his prospects in the final diminished after drawing the outside barrier in the field of nine. No horse has won the Nights of Thunder from the outside barrier, even though Davisons Destiny carried the No. 9 saddlecloth when he won the race in 2009 after starting from the No. 7 barrier in the field of nine.

There are no stand-out barriers in the first 15 years of the Nights of Thunder, with barriers two, three and five each providing three winners, with, surprisingly, only two winners from the prized No. 1 barrier — Lombo Navigator in 2011 and Soho Lennon in 2015.

My selection is Ideal Agent, who will start from the No. 2 barrier, with Warwick resuming as the gelding’s driver this week after attending a family birthday celebration last Friday night.

Dylan Egerton-Green, who handled Ideal Agent last week, will replace Deni Roberts in the sulky behind Double Up, who will start from barrier No. 1. Double Up was an $86 outsider ($126 on the fixed market) when he raced four back on the pegs before sprinting home fast to get up and win from the pacemaker Bettorstartdreaming, rating 1.52.3.

Ideal Agent possesses excellent gate speed which he revealed when setting the pace and winning over 2130m at Gloucester Park in October (rating 1.57.5) and on New Year’s Eve (rating 1.53.5) when he beat Ragazzo Mach by seven lengths. Double Up also has good gate speed, but he is generally regarded as a pacer who excels when held up for a powerful late burst.

Hall of Fame trainer Gary Hall snr has won the Nights of Thunder a record five times — with Teaslby Karita (2007), Hokonui Ben (2013), Soho Lennon (2015), Mohegan Sun (2016) and Benhope Rulz (2019).

He has two runners in Friday night’s race — Heez Our Perseus (barrier four, Maddison Brown) and The Ideal Touch (barrier six, Gary Hall jnr). The Ideal Touch is racing keenly and is most consistent, but he will need plenty of luck from barrier six.

The four-year-old Katja Warwick-trained Machnificent was unlucky when severely checked approaching the home turn before finishing fourth behind Double Up last Friday night. He is ideally drawn in the final at barrier three and should settle in third place on the pegs.

He is capable of unleashing a brilliant finishing burst and is likely to figure in the finish. He will be driven by Shannon Suvaljko, who drove the Ross Olivieri-trained Queen Shenandoah when she trailed the Bond-trained pacemaker Infatuation and finished powerfully to win the Nights of Thunder final by a length and a half from Rocknroll Magic 12 months ago.